I'm engrossed in a novel lately.
When I'm not in its world, it colors the world I'm in. I see through the characters' eyes. I have their emotional responses to the events of my life. I have to exercise a certain degree of mental discipline to keep all of that emotional freight contained, to keep it from slopping over the sides of its containers into my relationships with the real people in my life.
I never get a long enough span of time to be with this story or these characters. When my life pries me away from them and denies me the kind of quality time with them that I crave, I'm still nearly always thinking about them, on heightened alert for the next opportunity I'll have to sit down with them and extract new insights into what make them tick, and what they'll do next. At least a little bit, being this deep in the world of a story feels like falling in love.
It seems obvious to me now, but it had never occurred to me that writing a satisfying novel would be so akin, in these ways, to reading one.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a great novel that I'm writing. It's impossible for me to gauge how "satisfying" it would be to anyone else. But I'm having one of my most favorite experiences: total absorption in a story. It's an experience I hope for every time I open the cover of a new book, but this is a story that I am writing, and it is delighting me to no end.
I know what the writer is thinking when the plot takes a turn that I otherwise regret on behalf of a character. I buy it (because I wrote it). And I have the power to turn the plot when I feel it doesn't ring true and/or it doesn't tell the story that most interests me. And even the characters whose roles are to be the flawed, imperfect, sometimes detestable foils, are all so rich and dear to me. I know them so much more intimately than I would ever have known them as a reader -- I think as a result, I am completely in love with even them, as much and sometimes even more than the characters to which I most relate and/or would, as a reader only, be most attached.
In all these years of wondering what it would be like to give myself permission to "really" write, and thus putting off the work of doing it, I now realize that I was missing out on this experience! It's such a Homer Simpson "D-Oh!" kind of realization. My whole life it's been gut-wrenching and nerve-wrangling to care so much (too much?) about writing well -- with absolutely mixed success. But this, the just-finally-doing-it, is so much more fun that I ever imagined it would be.